EDITORIAL: Intriguing question

Unless a permanent body fully dedicated to disaster management is set up, the perennial problem caused by natural disasters will remain unresolved

With this year’s monsoon becoming more active, as many as 54 people have already been killed and 20 others have gone missing in landslides and floods triggered by torrential rains across the country.

As many as 38 people were killed in Pyuthan alone when their houses were either swept away by the swollen Jhimruk and its tributaries or buried by landslides.

The Home Ministry officials have said that 14 hilly districts have been affected badly by the monsoon rains, and almost all the plain districts have been under the flood waters as major rivers have breached banks entering the settlements.

Reports from across the country state that highways, bridges, irrigation canals, trekking routes, micro-hydropower projects and other infrastructure have been destroyed.

Traffic movement in some hilly highways such as Baglung-Myagdi has been completely halted after some stretches of the highway were swept away.

Security personnel have also evacuated people from the flood hit and landslide areas to safer places and the district Red Cross Societies have provided a meager amount of relief assistance to the affected people.

The Home Ministry officials have said that the security personnel, including Nepali Army, have been kept on the standby to evacuate and rescue people trapped in the floods and landslides. Some of them were also airlifted from inundated areas.

According to the Department of Meteorology, the heaviest rainfall occurred in Pokhara (263 mm), Birendranagar (228 mm), Lumle (216 mm), Dang (96 mm), Kathmandu (86), Nepalgunj (85 mm), Bhairahawa (77 mm) and Dhangadhi (75 mm) in the past 24 hours.

It was more than the average rainfall even during the rainy season. Meanwhile, the Home Ministry has demanded Rs. 750 million from the government to carry out immediate rescue and relief operation.

The government does not have any plans to permanently relocate and resettle the displaced families.

Everybody knows that the monsoon rain is the major natural killer and destroyer of physical infrastructure. Hundreds of families are killed or displaced every year as a result. But no government has ever had any long-term action plan to mitigate this annual natural disaster.

It remains complacent merely on distributing immediate rescue and relief assistance.

In order to mitigate the natural disasters the government has to create a nation-wide database of areas highly vulnerable for settlement, farming and development of physical infrastructure.

An effective early flood warning system or weather forecast system may also help people remain alert and evacuate themselves before it is too late.

The most intriguing question is that none of the governments has ever thought of creating a separate ministry or an all-powerful authority for long-term disaster management which includes, among others, immediate rescue, relief, evacuation, relocation and rehabilitation of the families displaced by all kinds of natural disasters.

Unless a permanent body fully dedicated to the disaster management is set up the perennial problem caused by natural disasters will remain unresolved; hundreds of families will be rendered homeless, forcing them to remain below the poverty line.

Air pollution

Nepal ranks 149th among 180 countries in the Environment Performance Index 2016 according to their environmental performance.

This should be taken up seriously because the Kathmandu Valley is one of the cities most affected by air pollution. The Department of Environment is all set to receive a van from the Kathmandu Metropolitan City which aims to introduce a mobile air pollution monitoring

service in the capital city within a month. Anybody who wishes to know the level of air pollution in his or her area would be able to contact the municipality or the concerned offices.

The vans would enable the working on backup, monitoring system installation and operation.

The van would be used mainly in areas where fixed stations are not available. Work is already proceeding to fix three fixed air quality monitoring stations in Kathmandu and Kavrepalanchok.

It is planned to install 56 such stations throughout the country.

Four air polluting gases would be monitored, namely carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and ozone in the air which are very toxic.

Despite knowing the harm that air pollution causes it is sorry that action to deal with the menace is taking so long.